Racial Disparities in School To Prison Pipeline in Rhode Island


Protecting Civil Liberties in Rhode Island for Over 50 Years


The School-To-Prison Pipeline: An Introduction

Over the years, the ACLU of Rhode Island has issued a number of reports examining racial disparities in certain areas of public interaction with the government, including traffic stops and school suspension rates. Each report has revealed statistical evidence to back up the anecdotal evidence that black (and Latino) Rhode Islanders have been producing for decades: that significant and persistent racial disparities exist, and that community concerns about racial profiling have a basis in fact.

Despite this growing body of evidence and consistent work by many to address these disparities, Rhode Island has lacked a comprehensive, strong response to resolve these issues. Worse, even as these disparities persist in the background, too many people still refuse to acknowledge their presence and the damaging effects that flow from them.

Events across the nation in 2014, and particularly in Ferguson, Missouri, have highlighted the importance of addressing those disparities, and addressing them before the latent frustration with these inequities boils over into crisis. What follows is a series of charts highlighting the reality of what has been called the “school-to-prison-pipeline,” a governmental pattern of pushing students, usually racial minorities, out of school and into the criminal justice system. The disparities experienced in elementary school beget the ones in the juvenile justice system, are exacerbated by those in traffic stops, which in turn are connected to those in arrests and, finally, in the makeup of the prison population.

We anticipate this document will grow and change with time, as we continue to compile additional data to demonstrate what many already know: the experience of Rhode Islanders differs by skin color. Readers can click through these pages to read about the school-to-prison pipeline in the same order many Rhode Islanders experience it, or readers click the links to below to read about a particular topic.

It is important to note that while much of what follows focuses on the different experiences of black and white Rhode Islanders, many of the statistics and conclusions apply to other non-white Rhode Islanders as well.

Black lives matter. It is our hope that in highlighting the connections between racial disparities and the impact they have from a young age forward, we can address racial disparity as a whole and strengthen equal treatment for all who live in our state.

Next: School Discipline